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Canada junior team enjoys facing Blue Jays

FOND MEMORIES: Ex-Ray Dan Johnson is in his home-run trot after hitting his third spring homer for Toronto.

Associated Press

FOND MEMORIES: Ex-Ray Dan Johnson is in his home-run trot after hitting his third spring homer for Toronto.

ST. PETERSBURG — The Canadian junior national team is getting a rare opportunity this week to see what it is like to play against major-leaguers.

The team faced a Blue Jays split squad Tuesday at Al Lang Stadium, falling 12-2. It will play split-squad games against the Braves today, the Tigers on Saturday and Pirates on Sunday, also at Al Lang.

"To have the opportunity to come out on the field and play against players that you watch on TV and inspire to be like is incredibly special. Especially when it's Canada's team," manager Greg Hamilton said.

Gareth Morgan, 17, one of the top outfield prospects for the June amateur draft, singled off Toronto RHP Brandon Morrow in the first. He said it was a "cool and humbling" experience, especially getting to play against his favorite player, Jays 3B Brett Lawrie, a Canadian.

"It's an honor to be a part of this team and get an opportunity to do this," Morgan said. "It's not every day you get to put a uniform on and play against big leaguers."

MORROW LABORS: Morrow, working exclusively on his fastball and splitter, was unhappy with his efficiency. "My fastball command was terrible," said Morrow, who walked four in three innings. "I was getting frustrated with myself out there."

EX-RAY STARS: 1B Dan Johnson hit a two-run homer off Tigers RHP Joba Chamberlain in Toronto's other split-squad game, a 3-2 10-inning win. Johnson, a Red Sox killer with Tampa Bay, has three home runs in 14 spring at-bats.

Yanks: CC experiments

VIERA — Yankees LHP CC Sabathia gave up three runs in three innings while working on a new pitch.

Sabathia tested a cutter in the 3-2 loss to the Nationals, throwing eight or nine of the pitch taught to him by former teammate Andy Pettitte.

"They felt pretty good," Sabathia said. "They either yanked it foul or took it. I don't know how hard it was, if it was the same as my slider."

Sabathia said his slider has actually been much tighter this spring now that he has been throwing a cutter. He plans to use the cutter along with his four-seam fastball to go in on right-handed hitters, and also to give them a different look.

TANAKA SHARP: Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka made his third start for the Yankees, this time in a simulated game. The right-hander struck out nine of 18 batters in four innings and threw 49 of 63 pitches for strikes.

Phils: Making his case

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Justin Upton popped a David Buchanan sinker into the sky, and the Phillies right-hander shouted as he descended the mound. Freddy Galvis caught the lazy fly. Buchanan, an improbable entrant in the fifth-starter competition, completed three scoreless innings against a stacked Braves lineup.

He was disappointed.

"You never like falling behind (the hitters) because you never want to get hurt," Buchanan, 24, said. "I was just probably trying to overdo some things instead of keeping it simple. I wasn't too upset, just telling myself to relax and stay smooth."

Buchanan was the last minor-leaguer invited to camp. His spring resume is six innings long, enough to warrant consideration for a job on a thinned staff.

The Braves were scoreless with Buchanan on the mound. They exploded for nine runs in the next six innings of a 9-1 victory.

"He's probably the only bright spot," manager Ryne Sandberg said.

Blue Jays

Games: Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, 373 Douglas Ave., Dunedin

Tickets: (727) 733-0429; bluejays.com

Today: vs. Rays, 1:05

Phillies

Games: Bright House Field, 601 Old Coachman Road, Clearwater

Tickets: (727) 467-4457; phillies.com

Today: at Orioles, 1:05, Sarasota

Yankees

Games: Steinbrenner Field, 1 Steinbrenner Drive (corner of Martin Luther King Jr. and Dale Mabry), Tampa

Tickets: (813) 879-2244; yankees.com

Today: vs. Tigers, 1:05

Canada junior team enjoys facing Blue Jays 03/11/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 11, 2014 9:47pm]

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